It’s totally possible to research and study a specific thing for many years, even decades, and still never have that thing grab your heart. For instance I met a guy in 1999 that had a PHD in Religion, but had come to the conclusion that there was no God. At the shortest, it took this man 8 years to get that degree, if not several years longer. To have read the Bible as many times as he had, from cover to cover totally dissecting it and looking at everything, but to walk away with the conclusion that God doesn’t exist. The truth is, he studied the Bible, but the Bible never studied him. He learned about religion and the Bible in general, but there wasn’t a point in which he allowed the Bible and religion to study him. His research and study lead him into intellectualism but never into a heart connect.
What is about to happen with John from Revelation 1:10-20, which is the consideration for this chapter, is going to be the opposite of this example listed above. John, who is now believed to be somewhere in his nineties, has studied the Old Testament scriptures for years, walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry and built the Church for years, preaching and teaching the life of Christ. But now, this Jesus whom John has read about, walked with, and shared with others is going to come alive in a way that he might have never imagined. The Material John has studied, so to speak, is going to come alive in his midst and grab his heart far beyond his intellect.
In this chapter I am going to cover John’s commissioning to write the Revelation, along with various truths Jesus reveals about His majesty and ministry, through what He wears, says and does.
John’s Commissioning to Write The Revelation (Revelation 1:10-11)
John opens up this section of scripture by saying in Revelation 1:10-11 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven Churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, to Smyrna, Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia and to Laodicea… I have titled this section John’s commissioning to write the Revelation. The reason I have titled it this way is because we see that John is expressly commanded by Jesus to write the encounter that is about to unfold, along with instructions on where to send the Revelation first.
John is here on the Island of Patmos which is about 18 square miles, or the roughly the size of Alcatraz. And it’s here, locked up as a political prisoner, that John says I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard a Voice… The statement that John makes about being in the Spirit is a reference to the power of encounter John was having in relation to this Revelation. John wasn’t just saying he was merely speaking in tongues or that he was living in the Spirit as a way of life, but rather that he was in an ecstatic experience. John is working to get across to the readers that this encounter enabled him to see things he couldn’t see on his own, to go places he couldn’t go on his own and to experience things he could never experience on his own. In other words, John was saying, I was fully inspired by the Holy Spirit when I wrote down the Revelation. This was an act of God, not of man. Paul had a similar experience in 2nd Corinthians 12 where he also experienced heavenly things he said he couldn’t even talk about.
I have heard preachers throughout the years refer to this statement about the Lord’s Day to be speaking about Sunday morning or attending Church. Now I appreciate the idea of going to Church on Sunday but what John was saying is something much larger than this. The two main beliefs about what John was saying here are this: 1) John was referring to the Day of the Lord. Many people have special days that they celebrate and love to talk about, and this is true of Jesus also. He has a Day that He loves to talk about and share with others and it’s called the Day of the Lord, or the Lord’s Day. The reason this is believed to be about the Jesus’ Day is because the events, material and experiences that follow in the Revelation are nearly all speaking about the Day of the Lord. 2) During John’s day the Emperor was Domitian who ruled around 81-96 B.C. and was demanding universal worship of himself at the penalty of death. Once a year, incense had to be brought and offered before an image of Domitian along with the verbal acclamation that he was Lord. This day became titled the Lord’s day. David Pawson in his book, Come With Me Through Revelation, states that this word Lord is in the form of a adjective meaning Lordly, or the Lordly Day. So the natural connection of this passage has John stating to the seven Churches, who are also struggling under emperor worship, that even though this wicked, pagan king is claiming divinity and is instituting a day, so also does Jesus have a Day, and His Day is far more important than this pagan pawn. John would be saying, don’t fear the emperor, but fear God, because He truly has a Day which is above every other day!
John is then commanded by Jesus to write in a book the things that he is about to see and send it to seven specific Churches in John’s day. John isn’t writing the Revelation because he has nothing else to do, but because Jesus has asked him to write down what he experiences and to send it to these other Churches that they might be inspired in their faith and their pursuit of the Kingdom in the midst of a pagan culture that hates Jesus.
Jesus Reveals Truths about His Majesty and Ministry in What He Wears, Says and Does (Revelation 1:11-20)
John, in his great isolation, being on the Island of Patmos as a prisoner and separated from his brethren, hears a voice that sounds like a trumpet coming from behind him and speaking with him (Revelation 1:11). Before I move on into the verses, this is truly a beautiful thing taking place with John. You have to understand how precious this encounter must have been to John, however terrifying it was. This experience and His time with Jesus on the Island would have been food for his soul in the days, weeks, months and years that would ensue after the actual experience. This encounter from Jesus to John speaks about God’s omnipresence and His omniscience. Though John is separated from his brethren and the Church, he’s not separated from God. God truly knows all things both about John and about his situation. He hasn’t forsaken him. What an encouragement this must have been for him and what an encouragement to us, that even in our nineties, locked up on a remote island Jesus knows where we are and loves to visit us.
As John turns around to see this voice that spoke to him giving him instruction, He sees Jesus Christ standing in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands (Revelation 1:12-13). It’s clear from John’s experience that Jesus is in the midst of His Church. In fact, the Church is actually positioned around Jesus. For those who long to be with Jesus and feel His nearness, their only option is to be involved with His Church, because this is where Jesus is. People falsely assume that they experience God best in the wilderness, at Cabelas, at Nordstrom or at the beach, but according to Jesus, the central place He is, is in the local Church. This doesn’t mean that we can’t experience Him somewhere else, but He has set up the Church to be the primary distribution center from which His presence, power and person is exported to our cities and nations. To be near Jesus is to be near and within the Church.
This vision John saw also encourages us to see that Jesus, in His post-resurrection, is still leading, guiding, directing, correcting, empowering, strengthening, delivering and overseeing His Church. This wasn’t something that He did only during His earthly ministry, in His incarnation, but still does in His resurrected body.
Because of what is about to follow in Revelation 2-3, in His address to the seven Churches, Jesus needs them to know that they can trust His words, His rebukes, His praises, His encouragement, His correction and His leadership over them. Here in Revelation 1:13 after John turns to see the voice, this is what he sees …and in the midst of the lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. What John sees is of the utmost importance related to Jesus’ need for these Churches to trust Him.
When John turns and sees the Son of Man with a garment down to His feet and being girded about with a golden band, Jesus is making a huge statement to both John and the Churches about His personality and His ministry. What Jesus is wearing is symbolic of both an Old Testament priest and prophet (Ex. 28:4; 39:29; Zech. 3:4). It was common for prophets to wear a sash around their chest and also for the priests to wear this same thing. But here, Jesus is wearing a golden one, which speaks of His supremacy over all things as the Great High Priest and Great Prophet of God. As the Great High Priest He is the One who not only made intercession with His physical body but still intercedes for us from the right hand of the Father. And as the True Prophet of God, He’s the One who speaks truth and is to be trusted. It’s not that Jesus is only a Priest and Prophet, but among the many other things He is, He’s also a Priest and a Prophet. He wants to give the Churches confidence that He is Tender (Priest) and Truthful (Prophet). The Man who is about to address them is the One who shed His blood for them and also the One who is called the Faithful Witness of God. This is a shot in the arm to the Churches regarding their ability to trust the words that will follow in Revelation 2-3.
The way Jesus is dressed also gives us great confidence that God hasn’t done away with the Old Testament, nor does God consider the Old Testament to be an inferior revelation of Himself. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament; they are One in the same. He Who inspired both Testaments, and all the writers, is the One who never changes. Those that love the New Testament must love the Old Testament for you cannot have one without the other.
After looking at Jesus’ apparel John sees this in Revelation 1:14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire… Again, Jesus is revealing Himself to John in very specific ways for the purpose of communicating various truths about Himself to both John and to the seven Churches. The hair and head white like wool remind us of Daniel’s vision of the ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9. Jesus is saying to John, I and My Father are One. I look just like My Father and I act just like Him. What a powerful statement Jesus gives us regarding His relationship with His Father! This is why Jesus said when He came, if you have seen Me, than you have seen My Father (John 14:9). Jesus is expressing His eternality alongside His Father’s (Col. 1:16-18).
As John continues looking at Jesus He notices that …His eyes are like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:14). I believe that Jesus’ eyes are an outward manifestation of an inward reality. Jesus said this about John the Baptist, He was the burning and shinning lamp in John 5:35. The reason why John was called a burning and shining lamp was because he was burning on the inside, which caused him to shine on the outside. John was burning on the inside and shining on the outside. I think this gives us a glimpse into the burning, fiery, affectionate heart of the Bridegroom King. His eyes are reflecting His great internal passion for weak lovers who say yes to Him, though they struggle. I also believe that His eyes will mean different things to different people. To those that have rejected Him and scorned His mercy, trampling it under foot, they will be eyes of judgment and indignation. David Pawson said no wonder they blindfolded Jesus while they struck Him and mocked Him. Who could ever look into those eyes and beat Him.
John’s vision of Jesus continues, but moves down to Jesus’ feet. In Revelation 1:15 he says His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of mighty waters. Throughout the Bible, brass speaks about judgment and even much more with the words as if refined in a furnace. It’s clear from Revelation 1:13 that Jesus is standing, which speaks of His movement into action. When we see in the Bible Jesus standing in His resurrection it’s usually speaking about His moving posture. He’s ready to break in, and when we see that He’s both standing and that His feet are like brass, we see that Jesus is ready to break in and trample sin. Though He is a Priest, and a Prophet, He’s also a judge who not only points out sin, but requires that we deal with it, or He will. Jesus doesn’t stand idly by doing nothing, but in divine patience He waits and longs for us to deal with it so that He doesn’t have to.
The Island of Patmos was situated on the Aegean Sea, and being an Island it was surrounded by water on every side. John said that His voice was like the sound of mighty waters. If you haven’t noticed yet, allow me to point out that John is struggling with things to compare Jesus to, so he is using words such as like. John, in his inability to define exactly what His voice sounded like, says it was like the sound of mighty waters. John is comparing His voice to the crashing of the waves on the shore. The relentless sound of the crashing waves upon the shore speaks of authority, consistency and persistence in that it never stops. Though His voice is so much more powerful than the waves, John only has this to compare it to. Nobody will speak over the top of this Man, and He will have the final word. Nobody trumps the voice of God, nobody!
And the final description of Jesus that John gives us in these verses is found in Revelation 1:16-17 when he says He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His hand on me, saying to me, Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last. Wow, what an encounter John has with the resurrected Lord Jesus! One which he surely never forgot; one that sustained him through that which was yet ahead of him.
Firstly, through the overall lens of the Bible it’s clear that God’s right hand speaks of His power and His ability to save and deliver those who are struggling. And John sees that in His right hand there are seven stars. Now when it comes to the seven stars there is much controversy around whether they are human or angelic beings. I am going to share with you my thoughts.
We know from what Jesus says in Revelation 1:20 that these seven stars represent seven angels. But the question is: are these human or angelic messengers? The Greek word used here for Angel is the word messenger and it is used to speak of both human and angelic messengers. To me personally it seems strange that God would give an earthly messenger (John) divine information about seven physical Churches and then ask John to give that information to a heavenly messenger (angel). It also seems strange to think about a heavenly messenger (angel) as being responsible for an earthly Church.
I believe that it’s best to see these messengers as human messengers. The better word for angel in my opinion would be Elder, Pastor, Shepherd, Apostle or overseer. It’s also not uncommon in the Bible to refer to people as stars (Genesis 15:5; 22:17; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43; 1st Corinthians 15:39-42). These stars that Jesus is holding in His hand, and will address in Revelation 2-3, are the human overseers of each of the specific Churches.
The reality that Jesus is holding these overseers in His right hand is of huge implications. It’s speaking about Jesus’ passion to help weak, struggling lovers that have said yes to Him. Jesus is standing in a place of judgment, but He’s holding these leaders in His hand willing to help them in the various areas of their lives.
Part of John’s encounter included a sharp two-edged sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth. David Pawson says that the Roman bayonets from John’s time period were actually shaped somewhat like a sword. John may have been including this natural aspect to this spiritual reality. It’s also true that Jesus has never needed any other weapon other than His mouth. This has always been His central weapon to slay those who oppose Him, and to strip every argument from those who would fight against Him.
I find it strange and really powerful that when John encounters the resurrected Lord it causes him to fall at His feet as a dead man. John again uses weak words to describe the strength of His brightness by comparing Jesus to the sun. Now, the sun is bright, in fact it’s the brightest thing we have. John who had seen Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (Luke 19:27-36), had leaned on His chest during the last supper (John 13:25) and had eaten a meal with Him in His resurrection (John 21:1-14) becomes totally undone in His presence and His brightness. The implications of this are endless. It’s important to keep experiences like this ever before our eyes so that we remind ourselves that the Jesus we serve and love is brighter than the Sun shining in its strength.
Jesus, in great friendship with this beloved Apostle, touches Him with His right hand and encourages Him to not be afraid and to stand up. It’s my belief that John is in the Joshua position from Joshua 5:13-15 where he didn’t know if the Angel of the Lord was for him or against him. I think that John was totally shocked about how glorious Jesus was when He saw Him shining. It seems by Jesus’ words to John that John isn’t really certain who he’s talking with. But through Jesus’ tenderness He assures John that it’s His beloved Savior and He encourages him by saying that He has the keys of hell and of death.
After John’s vision of Jesus, he now gets some further words of instruction from Jesus. Jesus tells John in Revelation 1:19 write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. In a nutshell, I believe this to be the overview of the entire Revelation. I see that the things which John saw, are Revelation 1. The things which are, are Revelation 2-4. And the things which will take place are Revelation 5-22. This is Jesus’ way of breaking down the Revelation in its entirety that John is about to receive from Him.
And lastly in Revelation 1:20 Jesus does something that’s common to much of the Revelation and that’s explaining to John what it is he is seeing. Jesus says The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand and the seven golden lampstands; the seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven Churches. Jesus is here explaining to John what it is that he sees in the vision. John is seeing specific things in this experience that don’t always make sense to him, and Jesus in His great kindness goes ahead and explains much of what John doesn’t understand. This happens time and time again.
The concluding verse of Revelation 1 makes a huge statement about Jesus’ passion to uphold the preachers in His hand and also His commitment to the Church itself. See, both the message and the Church are dear to Jesus and He wishes that neither would suffer, but that both would be fruitful and experience growth. Jesus wants them both to be successful and is unwilling that either one suffer. People want only to talk about the message and not the method, but with Jesus you can’t do that. He’s committed to both the message and the delivery of that message. It’s these words that Jesus uses to close Revelation 1.